Cherokee BOE approves mask policy

The Cherokee Board of Education met at 7 p.m., Aug. 10 for their monthly meeting.

The meeting was called to order with Kory Littlefield, Desiree Gibson, Amber Wilhite, Shane Parker and Kurtis Goodwin present.

The meeting was then moved to the auditorium so social distancing could be accommodated.

The meeting began in the auditorium at 7:15 p.m. and patrons had the opportunity to take part in public participation.

Thirteen people spoke during the public participation and were granted five minutes each. Once their five minutes were up, they were cut off and the next person came to speak.

The public was able to speak, but the board was unable to respond back.

Colby Wyatt was the first to speak. Wyatt talked about some training that he oversees for the military that had to be cancelled due to Covid-19.

The military follows the policy where they can’t enter an armory without a mask and temperature being taken. They also wear them in the halls and places where they can’t properly social distance themselves.

During this time they have had zero cases of transmitted COVID that came from the armory.

He also talked about three leadership points:

1. Seek and take responsibility for action.

2. Make safe and timely decisions.

3. Know your soldiers and look out for their wellbeing.

He uses those to make every decisions.

Heather Gottsch, parent and teacher at Cherokee spoke next.

She talked about some of her health issues and the reasons why she needs to wear a mask.

She also spoke as a teacher. She will see around 85 students per day.

She talked about the drills they practice and how there is not time for drills for COVID.

“This is not about taking rights away from students,” Gottsch said.

Her classroom is unable to be separated to accommodate social distancing.

Michelle Baldwin read a letter on behalf of Dr. Clay Reed. Reed is a graduate of Cherokee, who also has spent time working in COVID-19 wards.

Amy Eckhardt, parent and teacher at Cherokee, spoke next.

She talked about how her family has been preparing for five months in wearing masks. They aren’t in the high risk category, but have family that are.

She wants to protect the students and the staff.

“Who will be willing to come be my substitute when I am out sick or at home with a sick child,” Eckhardt said.

Alicia Mitchell, parent and teacher at Cherokee, spoke next.

“I am in favor of the mandate of PPE,” Mitchell said.

“The health of our teachers and students should be on the forefront of everyone in Cherokee.”

Matt Gibson spoke next.

He talked about the students not going to wear the masks properly.

“If this is going to work it has to be 100 percent or nothing,” Gibson said.

Gibson said he read that kids aren’t the ones spreading it, it’s adults.

“Of the world there are zero cases of children spreading to teachers and daycares,” Gibson said.

“If you want your kids or you want to wear them, then have it. If these masks are so good then you should be fine,” Gibson said.

He brought up that there are a lot of students who won’t ask questions, but the teachers can tell by facial expressions and with masks on the teachers won’t be able to tell.

Cale Gibson spoke next.

He talked about taking kids to get sports physicals and how every one of them weren’t wearing the masks properly right.

“If you are going to be in, be in 100 percent. If you want to wear them, wear them, you shouldn’t make the kids wear them because they aren’t going to work,” Cale said.

Shana Smallwood, Alfalfa County Emergency Manager, spoke next.

She talked about N95 mask being used in contaminated area and how they let clean air in and the bad air out. Surgical masks should be reapplied every 20-30 minutes to be effective.

N95 and surgical mask work well to protect yourself.

“I am in favor of recommending not mandating,” Smallwood said.

She doesn’t want to see the teachers and staff have to police the masks, because they won’t get policed.

She wants to make sure they follow the Americans for Disability Act when dealing with masks. 

Keith Smith spoke next.

He proposed that the school board implement a 30 day trial period to try the masks.

Leroy Goeken spoke next.

He is not in favor of masks. He said his children would have a hard time with masks. He said every mask is different and they would all have to be the same.

He talked about how the masks can be a distraction and that the students don’t need anymore distractions.

“My desire is to not mandate mask, but to make it optional,” Goeken said.

George Weve, parent and teacher at Cherokee, spoke next.

He talked about the plans that football and track have before their games and meets and he wants the same for teachers. He wants them to have a plan if they go to masks. He wants to know where and when to wear a masks.

Aaren Blossom spoke next.

The number one goal in school is to learn. He thinks putting masks on kids will cause a distraction.

“I don’t think mask should be mandatory,” Blossom said.

Matthew Valade spoke next.

He asked that if the board mandates the masks, what is the punishment? He also questioned that if the leaders were going to mandate them, then why weren’t any of the board wearing them?

Next, Niki Wyatt, P.A., and Dr. Tim Newton gave a presentation on COVID-19 with current information and personal protective equipment.

Following the presentation, the board voted on  two items.

The first was adding the Oklahoma School Safety Protocols to the Return to Learn Plan.

The protocols are what the state school board approved in a previous meeting and the school needed to approve it to keep the school in compliance. The protocols are only recommended and strongly recommended instead of mandating.

The protocol includes mask exemptions and accommodations that will be required for the school to do.

The plan was approved and added to the Return to Learn Plan.

The second part was determining and voting on the personal protective equipment policy at Cherokee Public School.

Superintendent Donna Anderson recommended that the board approve a policy where the students wear masks, where they can’t social distance.

Goodwin sees the need for the teachers to have a plan in place to eliminate gray areas.

He also said that the masks won’t work because students will continually touch the mask.

Goodwin said that N95 mask filters out .3 microns out or larger. COVID-19 particles are .06 to .14 microns in size.

“Even if they were wearing N95 mask and wearing them perfectly, they are still not going to filter out the virus,” Goodwin said.

He suggested revisiting in 30 days and not starting in masks.

Littlefield suggested that the school implement the mask policy for 30 days from Friday and then at the next board meeting revisit the policy. That would be 30 days from Aug. 14, not 30 school days.

“The first 30 days will be critical to maintaining a safe environment and minimize the risk,” Littlefield said.

The masks would need to be worn by 6-12 graders where they can’t social distance. The fifth graders would wear them when in the middle school.

Wilhite asked what measures the school has done to prepare for school.

Anderson gave the following update:

• A company is spraying disinfect.

• Every classroom has a COVID box.

• Temperature to be taken every morning and at noon. Anyone 100.4 or over will be sent home.

• Buses are getting sprayed down and drivers will wear masks.

• Ventilation when available.

• In-service with staff.

• No water fountain just using bottle part.

• Breakfast in the classrooms.

• Working on plans to help prevent groups gathering.

• Classrooms will be opened earlier.

• Plexi glass going up at elementary.

Gibson asked that if a parent comes in and doesn’t want their child to wear a mask.

Anderson said that if a parent is adamant then they would suggest distance learning.

If the school goes to distance learning then all activities will be cancelled.

Littlefield made the motion that students in the sixth through 12th grades wear a mask where social distance isn’t applicable and those in the fifth grade wear them when at the middle school for the 30 days. Wilhite seconded the motion and Littlefield, Parker and Wilhite voted yes and Gibson and Goodwin voted no.

The consent agenda was approved as follows:

• Minutes of the July 13 meeting.

• General fund encumbrances, purchase orders, balances and warrants.

• Child nutrition fund encumbrances, purchase orders, balances and warrants.

• Building fund encumbrances, purchase orders, balances and warrants.

• Bond fund encumbrances, purchase orders, balances and warrants.

• Activity Fund Report.

• Treasurer’s Report.

• Activity Fundraiser Requests.

• Resignation of June McGee.

Next, the board approved providing free breakfast for certified and non-certified staff and school district for the 2020-2021 school year.

They also approved the 2020-2021 ODCT contract for Secondary Career and Technology Education Programs and 11th and 12th grade mathematics and science courses taken from the Career Technology Centers for the 2020-2021.

At 9:21 p.m. the board convened into executive session to discuss the employment of personnel.

The board returned to open session at 9:48 p.m. and voted to employ Delana Hansel and Christina Herrera.

The following changes were added to the middle school and high school handbooks:

• Visitors: “Visitor policies may be affected by COVID-19 safety protocols.   Visitors should follow any measures posted for entry.

Parents and others are welcome to visit the school office at any time. Visitors and parents are required to enter through the main office doors and are required to sign in at the office kiosk. All teachers have a conference/planning period each day. Conferences may be made during this time upon request of the parent. Students are not to have visitors during school hours.”

• Sickness, Accident Or Contagious Disease: Any child who has run a fever due to illness shall remain at home until they have been fever free for 48 hours.

• COVID-19: Procedures for COVTD related illness and or positive cases can be found on the school website.

• Distance Learning: The distance learning policy and guidelines can be found in the High School office and will be available for download on the school website.

• Personal Appearance/Dress Code: Face Masks designed for personal protection are allowed if worn for medical reasons as recommended or required by school policy. These masks must be school approved, school appropriate and meet the standards of the dress code in regards to clothing.

• Semester Tests: Students having the following grade and attendance record will be considered exempt from semester testing. (Absences, both excused and unexcused will count toward this exemption policy.) The attendance committee will take absences for documented extended medical circumstances under consideration for exemption on a case-by-case basis.

A — 3 or fewer absences. B – 2 or fewer absences. C – 1 or fewer absences.

3 tardies in any class period will equal I absence. Teachers will keep track of these and inform students of their status.

Students exempt from required testing but opting to take the test to improve their grade may do so with a no risk agreement with the teacher. The test grade can only help their grade and will not lower it.

Students must be enrolled for the entire semester to be considered exempt. Any student transferring in during the semester will be required to take all semester tests.

Semester tests must be taken on the scheduled testing day. If a student is to be absent on the scheduled day arrangements must be made by the student 1 week in advance with each teacher to test early or test on the first available day upon return. A zero will be given for the test grade if not completed on the arranged day. Exceptions can be made for emergency situations beyond the control of the student.

Semester tests will not count more than 10% of the total semester grade.

Semester tests may be waived by the school administration if circumstances beyond the control of the students and the district create an academic disadvantage to those students required to take the tests.

• Attendance: Absences for COV1D-19 circumstances will follow the Cherokee Public Schools policy on absences due to COVID-19. This Policy can also be found in the high school office or on the school website.

Absences counted during distance learning periods will count toward the student’s attendance record.

The changes were approved.

The librarian statutory waiver, deregulation for library K-12 for the 2020-2021 school year for Hailey Cudmore.

They also approved adjunct teaching status for Brooke Meyer, anatomy/physiology NWTC, and Lyndee Cudmore, anatomy.

Ruth Richmond gave her report :

• Some changes were made to the handbook that included absences and attendance for COVID-19 and fever policy changed to 48 hours.

• Teachers are back working on plans for distance learning if it comes.

• The school is down three students and the 3-year-old class is smaller.

• The teachers will have a meeting on Aug. 21.

Bryce Schanbacher gave his report:

• Softball, football and cross country have begun practices and have good numbers showing up.

• Softball played their first game and won 11-2 over Cimarron.

• Sports policies in place are: each athlete has their own water bottle or jug, juniors and seniors and freshman and sophomores will be alternating lockers and times in locker room.

• Miss Cinderella was this past week and Kenedy Hester won Junior Miss Cherokee, Callista Studer Miss Cherokee and Madison Wheeler Miss Cherokee High. Lacy Hoggard puts on the pageant.

• Teachers should report back. They are working on distance learning if the time comes to go there.

• Jessica Schanbacher has been coming to help with Google Classroom.

• Amanda Tucker is working on getting devices ready.

• Staff has been working on  having smaller class numbers.

• Heather Gottsch has began her term as State FCCLA President.

Anderson gave her report:

• They have met with teachers and they have lots of questions, but are excited to be back.

• The school has two free hot spots. One is at the old Alfalfa Electric Cooperative building and the other is at the sports complex.

After hearing no unforeseen business, the meeting adjourned at 10:30 p.m.

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